In a letter sent Tuesday, thirty-four Senate Democrats accused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of diminishing enforcement of civil rights laws protecting LGBT and other minority students in publicly funded schools.
The letter follows a budget proposal last month in which DeVos‘ department stated it wants to cut the equivalent of 46 full-time positions at the Office for Civil Rights, which is responsible for investigating sex, race, disability, and age-based civil rights complaints.
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It also notes that protections for transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity have also been rescinded under DeVos’ leadership.
The letter reads in part:
“You claim to support civil rights and oppose discrimination, but your actions belie your
“During your continuation hearing, and during recent testimony, you gave confusing
and contradictory answers about the federal role in protecting students’ civil rights and whether
you believe that all schools receiving federal funds should follow civil rights laws.
“In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, you attempted to distance yourself from your family’s giving to organizations such as the Family Research Council, which promote intolerant views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming Americans and others.
“Yet, on June 15, 2017, the Family Research Council participated in an official event on engaging fathers in students’ education at the Department.
“You have also appointed staff who have fought against the Department’s 2011 Title IX Guidance clarifying schools’ responsibility to address campus sexual assault and against expanded protections for survivors of sexual violence on campus. These actions appear to reinforce the Trump efforts to curtail civil rights protections for students and families.
“There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students. The Department must fulfill that responsibility and work tirelessly to promote equality, opportunity, and an environment free of discrimination for all our children.”
The 34 Senators have also requested that DeVos hands over by July 11 information that shows how the agency is processing complaints of anti-transgender discrimination and sexual assault, manuals that show how investigators handle complaints, and records detailing the rationale for budget cuts, reports Buzzfeed.
Read the letter in full here.